Half Moon Bay: seven dead and 67 year old arrested after US’ sixth mass shooting in three weeks

Chunli Zhao, 67, was arrested in connection of the latest mass shootings in California

Seven people have been killed in two locations in related mass shootings in a California coastal community south of San Francisco.

Four people were killed at a mushroom farm, and three at a trucking business several miles away, on the outskirts of Half Moon Bay.

The incident marked the state’s third mass killing in eight days, following an attack on Saturday (21 January) at a dance hall where 11 people died as the city’s Asian American community was celebrating Lunar New Year.

Police arrested Chunli Zhao, 67, on Monday (23 January) in connection with the latest shootings after they found him in his vehicle in the car park of a sheriff’s substation, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said.

A San Mateo County sheriff deputy walks towards police tape as law enforcement officials conduct an investigation following a mass shooting on January 23, 2023 in Half Moon Bay, California

Ms Corpus said the two locations were nurseries, but it was not immediately clear how they were connected. It is believed that the suspect worked for one of the businesses and the victims were also employees. Half Moon Bay Vice Mayor Joaquin Jimenez said the victims included Chinese and Latino farm workers.

She added some workers at one facility lived on the premises, and children may have witnessed the shooting. Officials have not yet determined a motive for the shooting but the sheriff’s department believes Zhao acted alone.

‘Gun violence must stop’ 

“We are sickened by today’s tragedy in Half Moon Bay,” said San Mateo County Board of Supervisors president Dave Pine.

“We have not even had time to grieve for those lost in the terrible shooting in Monterey Park. Gun violence must stop.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted that he was “at the hospital meeting with victims of a mass shooting when I get pulled away to be briefed about another shooting. This time in Half Moon Bay. Tragedy upon tragedy.”

Video footage captured by Kati McHugh, a Half Moon Bay resident who witnessed the arrest, showed three officers approaching a parked car with drawn weapons after the Sheriff’s Office received reports of a shooting just before 2.30 pm local time (10.30pm GMT).

Officers found four people dead from gunshot wounds and a fifth person injured at the first scene. They later found three more people dead from gunshot wounds at a second location nearby, Captain Eamonn Allen said in a news release.

Zhao was spotted in his car parked outside a sheriff’s substation in a row of shops and was arrested after an officer recognised the vehicle by its licence plate. The officers pulled him to the ground, put him in handcuffs, and led him away. A weapon was found in his vehicle.

Aerial images showed police officers collecting evidence from a farm with dozens of greenhouses.

Half Moon Bay is a small coastal city with agricultural roots, home to about 12,000 people. The city and surrounding San Mateo County area are known for producing flowers as well as vegetables like brussels sprouts. The county allows cannabis farming in certain areas. State Senator Josh Becker, who represents the area called it “a very close-knit” agricultural community.

It is a majority-white community and about 5% of the population is Asian, according to census data.

Six mass shootings in three weeks 

In less than three weeks, there has been a shocking string of mass killings in the US – six since the new year, accounting for 39 deaths.

Three have occurred in California since 16 January, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University. The database tracks every mass killing – defined as four dead not including the offender – committed in the US since 2006.

On 16 January, a teenage mother and her 10-month-old baby were among six people killed in a shooting at a home in California’s Central Valley. Police said a gunman fired multiple rounds into the skull of 17-year-old Alissa Parraz and killed her child, Nycholas, as they tried to run away from the attack.

On 21 January, at around 10pm local time (6.00am GMT), a gunman killed 11 people and wounded nine others at a ballroom dance club in Monterey Park during Lunar New Year celebrations. The suspect, Huu Can Tran, 72, is believed to be responsible for the deadly shooting but was found dead in his vehicle after officers approached his van. His motive is still yet to be established.